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Last Updated: Monday, 10 October 2005, 11:43 GMT 12:43 UK
Greenpeace loses dolphins battle
Pair trawlers
Dolphins can become trapped in pair trawling nets
Greenpeace has lost its High Court attempt to overturn a government ban aimed at protecting dolphins.

The case centred on the decision to ban "pair" trawling for sea bass within 12 miles of the Devon and Cornwall coasts.

The environmental campaigners claimed the ban forced fishermen into deeper waters, where there are more dolphins.

But Mr Justice Stanley Burnton rejected the challenge and said Fisheries Minister Ben Bradshaw had "considered the relevant issues".

We must not lose sight of the bigger picture. There has to be a unilateral ban on pair trawling
Lindy Hingley, Brixham Seawatch

The judge said that although there was "no substantial scientific basis" for saying the 12-mile exclusion zone would save dolphins, he said Mr Bradshaw had been "genuine in seeking to reduce cetacean mortality" and had taken a step-by-step approach to the issue.

Greenpeace was granted permission to appeal against his decision.

He also urged that the group's appeal should be heard before the start of the next fishing season.

Dolphins are prone to becoming snarled up in the nets hung between the boats of sea bass fishermen, although they are not believed to feed on bass.

"Sham" exposed

Greenpeace had claimed in court that the ban was introduced to give "the impression" that action was being taken and it was "improperly political".

Spokesman Willie Mackenzie said: "The government has the power to protect dolphins in half the English Channel but instead they've been hiding behind meaningless conservation gestures and putting fishermen before dolphin populations."

Despite the ban, the problem hasn't gone away
Joan Edwards, The Wildlife Trusts

Lindy Hingley, from Brixham Seawatch, told BBC News the Greenpeace challenge had kept the issue on the public agenda.

She said: "We must not lose sight of the bigger picture. There has to be a unilateral ban on pair trawling.

"I'd give Greenpeace a pat on the back for keeping this on the agenda, although I'd say 'Why fight a battle when you can fight a war'?"

Joan Edwards, from the Wildlife Trusts, said she welcomed the judges decision to allow Greenpeace to appeal.

"Dead dolphins have been washing ashore for 15 years and will continue to do so.

"The Greenpeace challenge has proved really helpful because it means the public will realise that despite the ban, the problem hasn't gone away."

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